C'est magnifique! What a treat this was in Sheffield as the world-famous Cirque du Soleil swept in to kick off their magical new tour production, writes Daniel Bailey.
Varekai, Tales of the Forest, provided an intimate arena crowd with the first glimpse of the group's amazing four-night spectacular.
BUY TICKETS: Tickets for Varekia - at Sheffield Arena until Sunday, February 5, 2017 - are £47.25 to £61.60, including booking fees. Buy in person from the Arena box office, call 0114 256 5656 or visit www.sheffieldarena.co.uk
I wasn't a big fan of the arty circus world in my younger days, but now I can say I am truly fascinated.
Don't be fooled by the word circus. Varekai, which means 'wherever' in the Romany language of the Gypsies, is much more than that as it also tells an emotional and dramatic story.
The tale follows the adventures of young Icarus, who is parachuted into the shadows of the deep forest before taking flight on an extraordinary adventure.
But after flying too close to the sun and losing his wings, he is plunged back down to earth with a set of astounding dives and contortions into a giant net that holds him captive.
It's then the remarkable forest creatures come to his rescue, magically lifting him into the air to enable him to 'fly' once again.
The heavy make-up and brightly-coloured costumes are joy to the eyes and the fantastic acrobatic displays are simply jaw-dropping.
From the stunning hand-balancer to astonishing trapeze artists, plus the gripping Russian swing displays to the incredible skills of the baton twirler, this show had the lot.
There were no flaws as each act oozed perfection, along with a variety of music capturing the wonderful energy and imagination behind the performance.
Yes there were a lot of heart-in-mouth moments, but the tension was frequently eased with the hilarious slapstick interruptions from the clowns which brought some light-hearted comedy.
It was also great to see Ryan Hawley, who plays Robert Sugden in Emmerdale, sitting in the crowd enjoying the show.
Quebec-based Cirque du Soleil is one of the most celebrated circus organisations in the world, with the group now employing more than 1,300 artists from across the globe. ]]
Its reputation has gone from strength to strength and on this evidence you can see why it has brought joy to more than 160 million people in over 60 countries worldwide.
Don't miss this opportunity. If you go and watch Varekai, I guarantee the quota of Cirque fans in Sheffield will rise tenfold. A must-see!
Varekai, Tales of the Forest is at Sheffield Arena until Sunday, February 5.
BUY TICKETS: Tickets for Sheffield Arena are £47.25 to £61.60, including booking fees. Buy in person from the Arena box office, call 0114 256 5656 or visit www.sheffieldarena.co.uk
VIDEO PREVIEW: Roll up, roll up for Cirque du Soleil's spectacular Varekai at Sheffield Arena. Graham Walker's report and highlights video - CLICK HERE.